Benzo withdrawal knows no boundaries; it affects people from all walks of life and every corner of the globe. In talking to people from around the world, I hear the list of common symptoms and the questions we all ask. The most common questions people ask me are:
Is this a benzo withdrawal symptom? Withdrawal symptoms can be so bizarre, that it is hard to explain how they feel, or what our experience of them is like. I remember trying to explain to my family how I felt and the best I could do, to sum up my day-to-day living was to say that I felt like I was having a stroke while on acid while standing in front of a firing squad. My body and mind did some wild and crazy things in withdrawal, all of them very unpleasant and frightening. It’s good to check in with others in withdrawal, or to do a google search, to find out if what you are experiencing is common in withdrawal. And it is always a good idea to see a doctor to rule out any other cause, or to set your mind at east. Most withdrawal symptoms aren’t dangerous, but they sure are scary at times, not to mention painful and annoying. If you aren’t sure that what you are experiencing is a benzo withdrawal symptom, by all means, ask!
When will it end? I wish I knew the answer. Everyone’s recovery is unique. So many variables go into the mix, it’s hard to predict when we will be healed. I’ve talked to people who suffered horribly their first year off and went on to heal in their second year. I’ve talked to people who weren’t that damaged after stepping off, but they took years to feel better. Our DNA makeup plays a role in our healing as does our psychological makeup. What we eat or drink and how much stress we have in our lives, etc., play a role as well. All we know for sure is that we do eventually heal. We do get out lives back. (During benzo withdrawal, we need frequent reassurance that we will get better. We may ask a loved one over and over in the course of a day to tell us that we will get well. This is quite normal. Once we start to feel better, our neediness fades away.)
What medication can I take to help? There aren’t many things that make benzo withdrawal better. Most of the medicines that doctors prescribe to help take the edge off of our symptoms can make us feel worse, or, they have their own withdrawal syndrome we will have to face down the road. However, some people have reported that they don’t think they would have survived withdrawal without the help of the medications that they took. Only you can weigh all the factors and decide if you want to try another drug to help. I tried a few antidepressants and even two antipsychotics. All of them made me worse. Nothing took the edge off of my suffering except the passing of time, eating well, resting, avoiding stress and doing my best to hold onto a positive mental attitude.
What should I avoid in benzo withdrawal? Anything that works on GABA (alcohol, kava kava, valerian, phenibut, kavinace, z drugs, etc.) should be avoided. Antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers have been known to make us worse as well. (Although some people say that they have helped take the edge off.) Sugar, caffeine, food additives, colorings, and preservatives, strenuous exercise, extreme heat, stressful situations, vibrations, and certain vitamins and supplements can make us feel worse. Avoid the things that rev up your symptoms. Make sure you get adequate rest. Eat healthily. (One ingredient, fresh, whole foods are best.) Avoid overstimulation from television, social media, movies, video games, and the like. Also, avoid drama and people that drain your energy. Put your health as the number one priority in your life.
How do I get my family and friends to understand what I am going through? You probably can’t. They will never know exactly what you’re going through. How could they? But they can understand that you are suffering, need support and that you will eventually get well. I stopped trying to make my loved ones understand my reality and instead focused on letting them know how they could help me. They were relieved when I explained to them in straightforward terms what would best help me. They wanted to help, and having guidelines and suggestions made it so much easier for everyone, including myself.
Will I ever feel like my old self again? Of course! You’ll get your old self back, plus, you’ll most likely feel like you are a new and improved version. Many of us think that the time we spent in withdrawal was a time of great purification and polishing. When I felt mostly recovered, I felt as if I had become the person I had always wanted to be. There is light at the end of the benzo withdrawal tunnel, and it is shining bright. You’ll get there. One day at a time.
Why doesn’t the medical community understand the dangers of benzos? I wish with my whole heart that I knew the answer to that question. It is hard to fathom why the medical community doesn’t know more about benzos and the damage that they may cause. So much information about benzos is readily available on the Internet that we find it hard to believe that doctors haven’t been exposed to it. We all know the dangers of opiates. Perhaps, soon, word of the benzo crisis will make mainstream media and be taken seriously.
What questions do you have about withdrawal? Feel free to post them. Remember, benzo withdrawal is a temporary condition. We do recover, in time. It is normal to have fears and doubts about our recovery or to have times of despair. But don’t let the negative thoughts win out. Know that you are healing.